Posted by: Ben | October 13, 2010

if: Heated

I am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you: a review of Heated, a Z-code game in the 2010 Interactive Fiction Competition by first time author Timothy Peers.

During live performances and in the black and white promotional television clip, Brown performed the song wearing a burning helmet. The helmet was improvised with a leather skull cap onto which was bolted a metal dish that held lighter fluid or petrol. As the cap was not insulated, the heat from the burning fuel quickly conducted through the fixing bolt to the top of Brown’s head, causing him considerable pain. – Wikipedia

All else is spoilers.

Having used the majority of your income on pot, beer, and staying out of your house as often as possible, your décor has suffered. A beat up couch sits across from the television and milk crate combo that functions as your entertainment center. Other than that, you can see your kitchen to the west, your patio to the east, your bedroom to the north and the exit to this shit-hole to the south.

If I had to describe Heated in one word, it would be “competent”. It has a status line that lists the exits and provides game information. There are clearly designed puzzles with clearly designed solutions. There are multiple endings depending on how thoroughly and efficiently you finish the game, or how badly you fail. Everything in the game works as it should (apart from the fact that your alarm stops when you take it into the bathroom, and “in the jug is a stagnant water”). It feels like the result of a lot of effort.

Sadly, Heated lacks inspiration. It’s a game about waking up in your (not especially clean) apartment and doing (not especially interesting) tasks in order to get to work on time. If you make it your boss judges you on punctuality, presentability, hygiene and mood, and dishes out the appropriate punishment or reward. Achieving the optimal outcome is a challenge, and the “heat” mechanic justifies the game’s existence, since you have to wrestle with the player-character’s temper as well as with more commonplace environmental hazards. It’s functional, and parts of it are even amusing (especially the protagonist’s attempts at ironing), but it’s missing that extra element that will make you laugh, cry or believe a man can fly.

The IF competition often throws up out-of-place coding exercises, but Heated comes across as an unusually polished example.

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